Contractor Q&A: Tanya Leftwich on the Challenges and Rewards of Working in a Male-Dominated Trade

Contractor Q&A: Tanya Leftwich on the Challenges and Rewards of Working in a Male-Dominated Trade

Tanya Leftwich owns Painting By Tanya, an interior painting business located in York, Pennsylvania. We sat down with her to find out a little bit of what she’s learned as a professional painting contractor.

What were your thoughts at the time when you started your painting business in 2007?

I felt I could offer something a little bit different than your typical painting company. I’ve always been a very artistic person in regards to colors, decorating, artwork, etc. And I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, so I thought: “Why not be an interior painter?”

What were the first steps you took to get started?

My husband taught me how to paint professionally, which is quite different than painting for yourself. He was extremely supportive and helped me get my first vehicle and all of my painting tools – but the rest was up to me.

How did you find your first customers?

I started out by canvassing areas door-to-door and introducing myself. I love people and I felt that I could really connect with homeowners.

I found that not only could I do excellent painting with over-the-top attention to detail, but I could also connect with the wives and moms on a personal level and also help them with color selections, decorating ideas, etc.

How did your customers react?

I’ve been told numerous times it was so nice to have a woman working in our home. Painting is still a very much male-dominated field. There still is a stigma attached to it – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone out in my painting clothes and people ask me what kind of pictures I’m painting and when I tell them I’m painting a house they look at me dumbfounded. But then they ask for my business card!

You specialize in interior painting. How did that come about?

At the time I started my business, all the women painters in our area were faux finishers. This is something that I can do, but I decided not to focus on that because I felt it was a popular trend that might go out of style in a few years. So, I decided to focus on interior painting.

My team and I have painted everything from one room to mansions, including being 20 feet up in the air on ladders, planks and scaffolding. It’s a hard job and it’s physically exhausting at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

How has your company grown?

As time went on, I got busier and busier and started to bring people onto my team. I wanted a workplace that employees could work in and have a great sense of accomplishment but also have the flexibility if they needed to be with their families, appointments, etc.

Right now, I have one full-time employee who has been with me for eight years, plus one part-time employee. I want to build my team a little bigger, but not too big. I enjoy being hands-on working side by side with my employees and painting every day with them when I’m not doing estimates.

What’s the most rewarding part of owning your own painting company?

I love being my own boss. I love going into people’s homes and meeting with husbands and wives and kids and getting a feel for what they want. I love the smile on people’s faces when the job is finished and they see how beautiful their home has transformed.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2019 issue of PPC magazine. Tanya Leftwich was interviewed by Mike Starling, PPC Editor. Read more of what pro painters have discovered on the job in the PPC What I’ve Learned archive.